A shortened Currie Cup is trudging towards a conclusion – there was essentially a three-week break – with the last of the round-robin matches being played this weekend.
Several Springboks are back on duty for their respective provinces and with the year-end tour less than a month away, there a few candidates who need to shine for various reasons.
These are the men to look out for in the coming weeks.
EMBROSE PAPIER (BLUE BULLS)
A lot of eyes are now focused on the young Springbok scrumhalf after news this week that both Faf de Klerk and Ross Cronje won’t be available in Europe.
The 21-year-old has essentially been part of the national squad to soak up experience but the possibility now exists that he might actually play more than he has previously.
Depth in the scrumhalf position nationally is suspect and surely Bok coach Rassie Erasmus would betray his development goals if he doesn’t utilise Papier next month.
For now, he needs game-time at the Blue Bulls – but he’s not getting it because he’s competing with another Bok in Ivan van Zyl.
THOMAS DU TOIT (SHARKS)
The mobile, versatile prop this week stated how he was grateful to have been part of the national setup before missing out on the latter stages of the Rugby Championship campaign.
It’s a great attitude from the 23-year-old but he mustn’t rest on his laurels now just because he seems out of the picture.
Du Toit has been groomed as a tighthead in 2018 yet there’s an increasing need for him to perhaps be a trump card for the Boks, the guy that can play loosehead and tighthead equally well.
He’s a potentially excellent squad player to have and needs to stay in form.
DAMIAN WILLEMSE (WESTERN PROVINCE)
That magnificent sidestep against the All Blacks is ample enough reason for the Springboks to keep the gifted 20-year-old match fit.
With Willie le Roux likely to only be sporadically available on the year-end tour, Willemse’s importance is obvious.
It’s actually not a surprise that Province have picked him at flyhalf for the trip to Loftus on Saturday as it’s his preferred position and allows for continuity.
After all, Province are unbeaten.
However, is playing flyhalf appropriate preparation for playing fullback at international level?
MARCO VAN STADEN (BLUE BULLS)
It’s tough to say the 22-year-old’s halo has slipped because he actually hasn’t played a lot in the last month or so.
Yet Erasmus had such high praise for the nuggety flanker that it inevitably created a lot of expectation.
It’s highly unlikely that the Bok mentor doesn’t still regard him highly but one feels his place in the squad is on shaky ground if he doesn’t perform well in these closing stages of the domestic season.
DILLYN LEYDS (WESTERN PROVINCE)
Yes, he hasn’t been part of an Erasmus national alignment camp yet but then again, neither was his teammates Ruhan Nel.
Leyds has been outstanding in the Currie Cup and wasn’t even all that bad in a very mediocre campaign for the Stormers.
What makes him a potentially appealing pick for an international recall is that he’s played fullback for the majority of the Currie Cup campaign.
And, in many ways, Leyds is the man locally that comes closest to playing a similar type of game to Le Roux.
One last push could convince Erasmus.